Bernie Sanders hates Super PACs. At least that's what he'll tell you. After all, he is running against the big bad Hillary Clinton, who has her OWN super PAC! The horror.
Except something a guy I once supported for President said the other day on the Tee Vee machine came to my attention. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean (you know, the people who know you best and all that), who has endorsed Hillary Clinton hit back at Sanders for attacking Hillary Clinton's character by insinuation and inuendo that because her this or that super PAC supporting her takes money from people in finance, she is a compromised candidate. Dean dropped a fact bomb, liberals have our own super PACs, they are called labor unions, and we don't want to talk about their super PAC status because they are super PACs we like. Watch the exchange:
This is probably an inconvenient truth for purity progressives and self-appointed gatekeepers of progressivism, but labor unions do, in fact, have Super PACs.
Once such super PAC is run by a union called the National Nurses United. They have endorsed Bernie Sanders for president and has, as of February 8, had spent a little over $1 million supporting Bernie Sanders. One super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA, has spent less than $400,000 on her behalf so far. Planned Parenthood Votes has spent an additional $100K for Clinton. No other Super PAC has spent any significant sum in favor of either Clinton or Sanders. Well in excess of $100 million has been spent by super PACs supporting Republican candidates.
It is important to note that Priorities USA was not in fact set up by Hillary Clinton, nor was its original purpose to elect Hillary Clinton president. It was set up in 2011, with the objective of re-electing President Obama. Ready PAC, which is actually "Hillary's", has not yet spent any money in independent expenditures this cycle.
I guess Bernie never read what happens to people who live in glass houses and throw stones.
Which brings us to this: challenged on a debate stage, Sanders could not point to a single incident where he thought Clinton's paid speeches or PAC donors actually altered a position Hillary Clinton held or a vote she had cast. We do, however, know that Sanders is running hard against the President's progressive pan-Asian and Latin American trade pact (TPP), which the unions oppose as well. Did the lure of union Super PAC money color Bernie's lenses? Or is the case for Sanders followers - who I suspect agree with his stance on TPP - that big money influencing politicians' decisions is just fine, so long as they agree with the stance?
These are important, if partly rhetorical, questions to think about. The corrupting influence of money in politics is real enough. But there's a problem with Bernie's glass house. In order to make Bernie's super PACs seem kosher but Clinton's tainted, his supporters must necessarily declare that some money is less corrupting than other money, and that only super PACs that agree with them are immune from corruption, as are candidates who seek out and embrace money from those super PACs.
And therein lies a dose of truth in today's politics. Super PACs are a necessity the current campaign environment foisted on us by Citizens United, as much as the raising and spending of unlimited - and often untraced - funds in politics rightly makes our blood boil. They are necessary to fight the onslaught of big money on the Republican side that will attempt to hand over the reins of this country to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, or Marco Rubio. They are so necessary that even the self-appointed progressive gatekeeper Bernie Sanders benefits from them, to the tune of 2:1 over that big money sell-out, Hillary Clinton.